1. Florida

Buckle up, Florida: As President, Gingrich sees next U.S. state on the moon

Wake up and good morning. It was a stellar performance in pandering to regional voters. Newt Gingrich wandered into the Final Frontier Wednesday by telling a Brevard County/Space Coast audience that there will be a permanent U.S. base on the moon and a "continuous propulsion system" to allow travel to Mars by 2020 or, as he put it, by the "end of his second term" as president. Better hurry. Both China and Russia are talking moon colonies, too. (Photo: AP)

(Heck, we can't even decide to build a nuclear power plant in Florida by 2020.)

Ground control to Major Newt.... "The pronouncements appeared to thrill the crowd of roughly 700 people," AP reported from Cocoa, Fla., where the state's space coast suffers from a recent round of federal cuts to the space program. American astronauts even hitch rides on Russian rockets these days.

Got to hand it to Gingrich. In an era when the United States is ridiculed as a spendthrift nation -- one that borrows from China to sustain its daily needs and one in which the GOP itself demands massive spending cuts at the federal level -- what better goal might we commit our (borrowed) money on than establishing a moon base? Oh yeah, Gingrich even envisions a moon state. "When we have 13,000 Americans living on the moon, they can petition to become a state," he said, drawing laughter from the crowd, Politico reports.

That apparently could include five or more launches a day to the moon. Watch WESH video of Gingrich's remarks here. Apparently, this would all be driven mostly by private industry (with some NASA prize money), though where most of the massive venture capital required would come from is anybody's guess.

So is Gingrich for real or is this just presidential bluster to get us all thinking Big Picture and BHAG style again like JFK and the Wright Brothers? It can be a fine line between visionary -- as Gingrich likes to call himself -- and illusory.

Said Gingrich: "I wanted every young American to say to themselves, 'I could be one of those 13,000. I could be a pioneer. I need to study science and math and engineering. I need to learn how to be a technician. I can be a part of building a bigger, better future. I can actually go out and live the future, looking at the solar system and being part of a generation of courageous people who do something big and bold and heroic,'" Gingrich said, according to Politico.

Surely there's a better way to motivate young thinkers. And surely there's a way to help the economy of the space coast (where even the area code is 321) without touting such false promises of a moon colonization project within the next eight years.

"Lest anyone think that Gingrich wants government to grow in order to launch these new programs, he proposed setting aside 10 percent of NASA's budget for prizes to be awarded for the innovations that lead to the moon and Mars," reports the Washington Post. He also promised to scrutinize the NASA bureaucracy and billion-dollar programs that don't produce results.

Seven years ago, President George W. Bush pledged to send humans back to the moon by 2020. Read more here. That plan was since scrapped from a federal budget desperate to find spending cuts.

Perhaps Gingrich, should he become president, can ask his latest benefactors to pay for a moon colony. Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who made their fortune in hotels and casinos, are among the richest couples in the world with a fortune Forbes estimates at $23 billion. They are bankrolling the super PAC that supports Gingrich. Their $6 million contribution is the main reason Gingrich can afford to run campaign ads on TV in this state.

Can you hear me Major Newt?....

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times